The common values of Hürriyet
The sale of the Doğan Media Group, which includes Hürriyet and the Hürriyet Daily News, to Demirören Holding, which is owned by Erdoğan Demirören, is a significant development in terms of Turkey’s media and democracy.
Just like Aydın Doğan’s acquisition of Milliyet and then Hürriyet in the past, this change also marks the start of a new era in Turkish media history. Naturally, readers are criticizing this process and sending questions about it. That is why I want to clarify a number of points.
For me as the Doğan Group’s Ombudsman, the group’s publication principles have served as a compass. I have worked to fulfill my duties in the light of the universal principles of journalism and the principles of the Organization of News Ombudsman (ONO).
Hürriyet is an organization that symbolizes mainstream journalism in our country. In the past its “common values” were defined as trust, independence, accuracy, objectivity, pluralism, individual rights, the protection of private life, transparency, and accountability. It has been in favor of democracy, secularism, justice, human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of the press; it has been against hate speech, racism, violence and discrimination. In its first edition published on May 1, 1948, it stated: “We have come forward to enroot and protect democracy.”
Of course, one may question the extent to which Hürriyet has adhered to these values over the years. Some may certainly say it has made some mistakes. However, it is clear that Hürriyet has reached today by representing these values, by operating its internal inspection mechanisms against mistakes, and by protecting its transparency and accountability.
These values should always be a guide for Hürriyet. It can maintain and even improve its mainstream position and reputation only through editorial independence and critical journalism.
Tabloids and celebrities
Associate Professor Şebnem Soygüder of Ege University is one of the rare academics who suggests that tabloid journalism should be taught in journalism schools.
Soygüder places tabloid celebrities in the following categories: Real celebrities, biological celebrities, almost-celebrities, and made-up celebrities.
Biological celebrities are relatives of celebrities such as spouses or children. Almost-celebrities include temporary celebrities like ones that become known thanks to TV programs like “Popstar” or “Survivor.” Made-up celebrities are the ones who become known thanks to tabloid journalism. Indeed, we sometimes see people hitting the headlines even though we do not actually know what they are doing in their lives.
They are not artists, designers, models or authors, but they sometimes manage to occupy space in the tabloid press and we thus gain familiarity with them over time.
In other words, while tabloid journalism feeds from news from celebrities, it also produces celebrities. We need to see that most of these stories are not newsworthy. Most of the time, the publication of these stories about made-up celebrities is determined by public relations experts rather than journalists. Somehow, newspapers end up becoming a promotional institution, sidelining their duty to inform readers.
Can a news outlet maintain editorial independence in this situation? I think it is beneficial to discuss the issue from that perspective.